Thierry Michon knew he would convert the land his father farmed since 1960, and the whole of Domaine Saint-Nicolas to biodynamics. Over the years he bought buffer zones to keep chemical products used by nearby vineyards from seeping into his land. And today he’s producing some of the most sought after wines from the tiny Fiefs Vendéens appellation in the Loire Valley.
Spoiler Alert! This month Jill Barth from L’Occasion is hosting the French Winophiles group of writers and bloggers with the theme “Loire Valley Summer Escape”. Jill writes about many aspects of wine. One of the places you can find her is on Forbes. Scroll down for a list of #Winophiles participants and information about our August 15th Twitter chat.
Let’s Talk Loire
The Loire Valley is France’s largest white wine region and second largest sparkling wine producer. Red wine is produced too, scattered within most areas of the Loire. It has fifty one appellations (AOC/AOP), six broader IGP Loire Valley indications (Protected Geographical Indication) and Vin de France. It’s known not only for wine but also grandiose castles. Close your eyes for a minute you’re fine, three minutes and you might miss one.
A gorgeous three to four hour drive from Paris puts you in Nantes, home of Muscadet and the western most Loire Valley sub-region.
If you continue heading southwest you enter Vendée (equivalent to a county in the US) and the newest Loire appellation.
Fiefs Vendéens, Tiny and Mighty
Just eighteen vignerons, otherwise known as people who grow grapes for winemaking, are located in this appellation. These committed folk hung in there to successfully see their land become official in 2011- Fiefs Vendéens AOC/AOP!
Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Grolleau Gris, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Négrette (seen to the left), and Cabernet Franc.
Five communal appellations (sub-zones) divide the region. The locals refer to them as terroirs: Brem, Chantonnay, Mareuil, Pissotte and Vix.
Each sub-zone is different geologically. Brem, closest to the Atlantic Ocean, has alluvium and clayey schist (slate) soils. Chantonnay further inland causes vines to grow deep in an ancient fault line on gneiss and metamorphic amphibolite soils. Maueuil has mellow slopes of hyolites and schists. Pissotte along the Vendée river has red schist soils. And Vix is all about gravel and limestone.
The area as a whole is surrounded by old salt marshes, forests, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. A continual wind off the Atlantic blows inward carrying with it the smells of the sea and salt. Try to imagine being at the coast on a breezy day and breathing deeply through your nose. That’s the sea breeze, saline smell I’m talking about.
Lastely, for sunshine lovers, it’s pretty much on par with the south of France, meaning sunny days dominate!
Let’s take a look at Thierry Michon and what he’s doing on his land in Brem.
An Independent Ecosystem Outside and In
He’s sometimes called a guru, the king of biodynamics and/or the Chenin master. He’s also one of the worlds fastest oyster shuckers and apparently quite a jovial character. Several YouTube videos watched and articles I read confirm this is indeed true!
Taking care of the soil is a priority for Michon as it allows his 40 hectares (98 acres) of vines to fully express themselves and protects the surrounding environment. The vehicle for him to do this is biodynamics- it preserves soil microbial and plant life and more. Domaine Saint Nicolas holds Biodyvin certification since 1995.
Michon is joined by his two sons, Mickaël and Antoine as seen above. Antoine is in charge of production in the cellar and vineyard where they grow Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Groslot Gris, Cabernet Franc, Négrette, Gamay, and Pinot Noir. Mickael works on permaculture and establishing a farm with in the vines. Creating an independent, synergistic ecosystem is the goal. This includes making all biodynamic herbal infusions for vineyard treatments.
Moving to the cellar, wines spontaneously ferment as Michon feels cultured yeast changes the taste of the wine. They don’t fine nor filter and minimal sulfites. The whites and rosés are vinified, and if applicable, aged in large, neutral oak casks. Reds are aged in the same, or barrels. They use amphorae for select wines.
When it comes to the timing of decisions, e.g., planting, treatment application, and harvesting, the Thun biodynamic calendar is utilized. (We now know three wineries utilizing this calendar, the other two are Chateau Feely and Chateau de Monfaucon, both in the Bordeaux area.)
Domaine Saint Nicolas In My Glass
I purchased three wines, opting for varietal versus blends. Of course I couldn’t resist a rosé!
2018 La Poiré Blanc – Vin de France |100% Chenin Blanc | 28€
One of the Domaine’s “signature” cuvées, Michon chose very high maturity and concentration for the grapes here grown on sandy clay and blue schist soil. Fermentation with natural yeast stopped at the end of winter with about ten grams of residual sugar. Cold stabilization followed. Aging occurred in the large casks for ten months.
Aromas and Taste: Clear straw in color, it has pronounced lemon, tangarine, nectarine, persimmon, white lily, and crushed sea stone minerality. These flowed to the barely detectable off-dry palate as well as citrus-stone fruit preserves with a creamy quality. It has medium-plus acidity and body with a long finish and balanced structure.
Mark and I were absolutely wowed! I didn’t read the details before tasting this and expected a dry wine. The integration of residual sugars is remarkable… bright acidity and mineral quality carry it past the faint sugar hint with such precesion it almost vibrates on the palate. A beautifully structured, rich, deep and elegant wine, absolutely irresistible. Can you tell I liked it?!?
I see sipping this with roasted necatarines or peaches topped with buratta and a light honey drizzle.
2017 La Poire Rouge – Fiefs Vendées Brem | 21€
It aged eighteen months in the large wooden casks. The wine pours deep purple in color with a ruby rim. Aromas and flavors consist of black and blue berry, violet and pepper spice. On the palate the fruit is crisp and dense with a medium overall structure. Visions of grilled tri-tip, wild mushroom ravioli or lamb tagine with this wine.
Gammes d’Été Rosé – Vin de France | 10€
A direct press wine with fermentation on natural yeasts and no sulfur then seven months in stainless vats.
It pours medium pink in color with aromas and flavors of red and black cherry, wild raspberry and pepper spice hints. These flow to the medium-intensity palate with barely noticeable low tannins, vibrant acidity and a fine mineral core. The variety of summer- “Gammes d’Éte” as depicted on the label- is a playful wine to enjoy with a variety of foods or by itself. It definitely holds its own.
For information and links to find these wines scroll to the bottom.
French Winophiles Escape to the Loire
Join us for a Twitter chat tomorrow, August 15th at 8am Pacific Time, 17:00 CEST with the hashtag #Winophiles. Comment, share or just follow along. Here are links to what we will talk about:
- Muscadet is Not Muscat, Gabure Bigourdane, and (Our Version of) Faire Chabròl | Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Thierry Michon and Domaine Saint Nicolas – Biodynamic Loire Wines |Savor the Harvest
- Savennières and Vouvray: Two Tastes of Loire Valley Chenin Blanc | The Swirling Dervish
- Sweet Wines from the Loire | Avvinare
- Made it to Dessert with a Vouvray | Keep the Peas
- A Visit to Loire with Thierry Puzelat of Organic Clos du Tue-Boeuf: Part 1 Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc with Summer Squash Tart | Wine Predator
- Turkey and Cabbage Skillet Recipe with Pouilly-Fumé | Cooking Chat
- Enjoying Summer Food with Chinon Wine and a Fun Book | A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Cooking to the Wine: “Brendan Stater-West Saumur Les Chapaudaises and Chicken Thighs with Apples and Onions | Somm’s Table
- Summer Sipping: B&G Chenin Blanc and Crispy Baked Pork Chops | Our Good Life
- Montlouis-sur-Loire – 2 Rivers, 3 Zeros and some delicious sparkling wine | Crushed Grape Chronicles
- Exploring the Loire Valley From My Balcony with #Winophiles! | The Quirky Cork
- Funky Loire Pet Nat was born for goat cheese pizza | My Full Wine Glass
- A Crémant de Loire, a Vouvray, and a Rosé D’anjou – I’m all set for the summer | Chinese Food and Wine Pairings
- Touraine Chenonceaux in the Loire Valley – Where Wine andHistory Reign | Grape Experiences
- Getting “Au Naturel” with Damien and Didier Richou ‘Les D en Bulles’ Méthode Ancestrale | ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
- Wine Thirsty? That’s No Problem in France’s Loire Valley | L’Occasion
Find these wines in the States:
- Variety Wines Distributor https://veritywines.com/
- European Cellars Importer https://www.europeancellars.com/